Lyric Opera of Chicago | Lyric Opera House | Classical | Chicago Reader

Lyric Opera of Chicago All Ages

When: Sat., Sept. 27, 6 p.m., Wed., Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m., Sat., Oct. 4, 2 p.m., Tue., Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m., Sat., Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m., Wed., Oct. 15, 2 p.m., Sat., Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m., Tue., Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m., Fri., Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m., Mon., Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. and Fri., Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m. 2008

The Lyric Opera opens its season with a perfectly cast production of Jules Massenet’s Manon, a classic romantic tearjerker that’s nonetheless classified as an “opera comique.” Soprano Natalie Dessay is luminescent as Manon Lescaut, a country girl whose family has sent her to a convent but who never finishes the trip; she soon becomes a luxury-loving courtesan. Dessay is an irresistibly compelling actor with a magnificent, flexible voice, and in her first-act aria “Voyons, Manon”—where Manon alternately daydreams about worldly pleasures and reproaches herself for doing so—she vividly communicates the complexity of the character. As Manon’s love interest, Le Chevalier des Grieux, tenor Jonas Kaufmann complements Dessay wonderfully, with subtle tenderness and gorgeous outpourings of passion. Their duets—like the third-act reunion, “N’est-ce Plus Ma Main?,” where she begs him to return to her instead of becoming a priest—can be outright thrilling. Director David McVicar injects his rather squalid vision of prerevolutionary France with some of the same kinkiness as his Julius Caesar, which the Lyric hosted last season. The chorus is fabulous and the orchestra, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume, has plenty to do and handles it all with aplomb. —Barbara Yaross

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